How Does Flexibility Benefit Your Voice?
If you are reading this article, you may already be familiar with Throga and the 7 Dimensions of Singing (7DS). If not, here is a crash course: The 7 Dimensions of Singing are seven scientifically backed concepts that help you to target any aspect of your voice, helping you to develop your vocal skills and become a better singer. These seven dimensions are:
In this article, we are going to fully focus on Flexibility. And while no Dimension is more important than the other, there is a reason why Flexibility is the very first one. We can say that this Dimension is the foundation of good vocal technique and you probably already know it, since it’s the one that we target when warming up!
Flexibility revolves around the proper elasticity of the vocal folds when singing. Being “Flexible” enough, in terms of vocal fold pliability, means that your vocal folds will be able to thicken for low notes and thin for high notes. This whole process is done by a set of different muscles we have in the neck area. And don’t worry you don’t have to know nor memorize them to get them to work. (However if you are a vocal geek like me, then I invite you to learn more about the anatomy of the voice in the Throga Book.)
But how can Flexibility help us to become better singers? Its sole definition is the best giveaway. Think about it, when you wake up in the morning after a long night’s sleep, you probably feel your arms and legs all tensed up and rigid. A good stretch can work wonders in your arms, legs and your whole body overall. You’ll probably feel and perform better throughout the day. The more flexible you are, the more and the easier your body can react to different activities. It doesn’t matter if all you need is stretching your arm to reach that container in the cupboard, or the way you kick the ball when you play soccer. If you didn’t skip any of your Physical Education classes, then you probably know that it is important stretch before starting any workout.
It all pretty much goes back to the same principle: the more efficient your stretch is, the better results you’ll have in your performance afterwards. At the same time, you’ll probably realize that stretching might be getting harder as you get older. However, don’t be quick to just blame it on age. Your body is like a perfect computer that adapts (or tries to) to the many things you do (or don’t) to stay healthy. This can also be applied to singing. You see, Flexibility is a must to be able to sing high notes. It doesn’t matter if you are talking, humming or singing lyrics. Your vocal folds will need to stretch out to get to those high notes, and the higher the song, the more flexibility will be required. This sounds simple and appealing, right? After all, most singers want to sing those high notes right away and become the next stars in the industry.
Things however don’t just happen from one day to the next. You have to work for it. Like any other Dimension of Singing, Flexibility requires time and awareness to properly develop and stay with you. It cannot be forced and it should never hurt. There are no shortcuts in singing; so if you want to get better, you have to put in the time and effort to get the results you want.
The very first thing you need to understand is that Flexibility wants you to get out of your comfort zone. This is where people tend to get a little jumpy because they are afraid to try new things. Often times, men don’t like making sounds that will appear to “feminine” and women may have a harder time trying to go to their lower range. You see, flexibility works both ways. You have to be able to sing both low and high notes and do your best to connect them. And yes, this sounds easier said than done, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be hard.
It doesn’t take much to activate the proper laryngeal muscles to get this coordination going. All you need is to start making silly sounds. Yep, don’t even think about singing just yet! Just think of a cartoon character or noise and get to it. How? Well, you can try to imitate the sound of a police siren. Men have to try and get to their head register or falsetto (think of Mickey Mouse), and women, don’t be afraid to put some weight on your lower notes so they don’t sound breathy. Think of calling someone who is far away with a “Hey!”. Don’t force it or yell it and pay attention to the inner sensations you have, so you can also apply this to exercises and then to your actual songs.
Once you have properly established the lower and higher notes that you have access to with your voice, all you have to do is glide from one to the other using either lip trills, tongue rolls or a humming sound. Don’t worry about notes or scales. Everything should be comfortable first and Flexibility can be trained like this too. Just doing this, about 10 to 15 minutes a day, three to five days a week, will start opening a new set of “colors” in our voice. You’ll notice how it is easier to get to certain notes, whether they are low or high, and how your voice will be more responsive to training or singing.
And now that you’ve warmed up your voice, are you ready for what comes next? I’ll be waiting to hear from you.